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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

It's easier to become a teacher, but ...

States are dropping licensing tests to qualify more teachers, write Hannah Putnam and Heather Peske of the National Council on Teacher Quality. Are the new teachers competent? We don't know.

"Effective teachers are the most important in-school factor for improving student learning, so lowering the bar for entry into the classroom is essentially gambling with children's futures," they write. But "almost no one is tracking the impact" of "making it easier for people to become teachers."

Decades of research shows that "licensure tests are predictive of teachers' effectiveness in the classroom," Putnam and Peske write. It's important for elementary teachers to know the content they're expected to teach." Furthermore, "lowering the standards for entry perpetuates the myth that racial diversity and teacher quality are incompatible goals." In Florida, would-be teachers no longer have to prove knowledge of the subjects they'll teach, if they have a master's degree -- but the degree doesn't have to be in that subject.

Minnesota may drop the requirement that teachers pass licensure exams on content knowledge and reading instruction.

Wisconsin may drop the Foundations of Reading test, which measures "knowledge of scientifically based reading instruction," in favor of a portfolio.

The neediest students are the most likely to be taught by novice teachers, note Putnam and Peske. If these teachers are less effective, these students will fall even farther behind.

A few states are analyzing teacher effectiveness."Texas tracked the results of temporarily suspending licensure test requirements for some teachers and ultimately elected to put the requirements back in place," they write. Massachusetts has released a report comparing teachers with emergency licenses, a pandemic policy, to the traditionally licensed. Emergency teachers are more racially diverse, researchers found. Retention rates are similar. There's no evidence yet on effectiveness.

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